Philae lander on comet may communicate again

November 15, 2014
This is an artist’s rendition of Rosetta’s closest approach to Earth during its second swing-by of our planet on 13 November this year. The image shows the fly-by configuration as seen from below. Credit: ESA

European space scientists are hoping that they succeeded in maneuvering comet lander Philae into the sun and that it will resume communicating Saturday with recharged batteries.

The European Space Agency said the Philae , which has fallen asleep on 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko with its batteries depleted and not enough sunlight available, may communicate again Saturday at about 1000GMT (5 a.m. EST).

"From now on no contact would be possible unless sufficient sunlight falls on the solar panels to generate enough power to wake it up," ESA wrote on its blog early Saturday.

On Friday, controllers performed a rotation hoping to put the lander's out of a shadow, but they said they would not know until Saturday if they had succeeded.

Philae landed on the comet Thursday after a 10-year journey aboard the Rosetta space probe. Since alighting on the comet, which is some 311 million miles (500 million kilometers) distant from Earth, the lander has performed a series of tests and sent back reams of data, including photos.

On Friday, the spacecraft not only rotated itself to catch more sunlight, but also performed another tricky maneuver, drilling 25 centimeters (10 inches) into the comet to start collecting samples.

Material beneath the surface of the comet has remained almost unchanged for 4.5 billion years, so the samples would be a cosmic time capsule that scientists are eager to study.

Scientists hope the $1.6 billion (1.3 billion-euro) project will help answer questions about the origins of the universe and life on Earth.

Communication with the lander is slow, with signals taking more than 28 minutes to travel between Earth and Rosetta.

No matter how long Philae keeps talking to them, scientists say they already have gathered huge amounts of data and are calling the first-ever comet landing a roaring success.

"Let's stop looking at things that we could have done if everything had worked properly," flight director Andrea Accomazzo said Friday. "Let us look at things that we have done, what we have achieved and what we have on the ground. This is unique and will be unique forever."

Explore further: Comet lander starts drilling; batteries a worry (Update)

Related Stories

European probe plants thermometer on comet

November 14, 2014

Europe's Philae lander is doing well and has succeeded in planting a thermometer in the comet where it touched down this week, the European Space Agency said Friday.

Space agency releases first picture from comet

November 13, 2014

The European Space Agency on Thursday published the first image taken from the surface of a comet, and said that its Philae lander is still "stable" despite a failure to latch on properly to the rocky terrain.

Comet lander ends up in cliff shadow (Update)

November 13, 2014

A shadow was cast—literally—across Europe's historic mission to land on and explore a comet. Scientists said Thursday the landing craft not only bounced twice, it also came to rest next to a cliff that's blocking sunlight ...

Recommended for you

An exoplanet with an 11-hour orbit

February 22, 2019

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) was launched on April 18 of last year with the primary objective of discovering transiting planets smaller than Neptune around stars bright enough for spectroscopic investigations ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

5 / 5 (1) Nov 15, 2014
Philae lander did communicate again..
not rated yet Nov 17, 2014
With all the expertise available you would have thought there would have been more reliability to plant this device and use it for a interstellar ride for years to come.....Sounds like the Euro consortium is pretty happy with what the did get so far.....still exciting and more to come..

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.